Don't Burn It Down

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Fashions change, and this year's superstar is next year's has-been. DJ Yellowman was one of Jamaica's most spectacular success stories, a poor albino rocketed to fame through the talent of his tongue alone. Across the early through the mid-'80s, Yellowman ruled the dancehalls, but by the end of the decade, his throne had been occupied by a new generation of toasters. As Don't Burn It Down shows, this fall from grace was not prompted by any drop in quality. Here Yellowman remains at the top of his form, the words pouring effortlessly into the mic, sweeping along on the rhythm, like a canoe careening down a swift current. The crisp production comes courtesy of Black Scorpio sound system operator Maurice Johnson, and features a clutch of excellent rhythms. As to be expected, most of the tracks deal with the DJ's never-ending hunt for females -- girls, women, virgins, he wants them all. And on "Hold a Girl," he lists every name DJ on the scene; they all have a lady, but poor Yellowman leaves the dancehall alone. Then again, if the police have to come around and tell you to "Stop Beat Woman," it's no wonder. The wickedly, witty "Dry Head Adassa" takes the DJ into slacker territory, with "Diseases" a timely warning on just where all this behavior can get you. But even the serious songs have a singalong excitement to them; the title track, a plea to stop burning ganja fields, is a dancehall delight, guaranteed to kick-start any party. Yellowman's star may have faded, but his toasts remain as sharp and bright as ever.

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